Start Me Up
We’re here just one day before //BUILD/ 2014 and yet we’ve gotten ahold of a Windows 9 build. The rumor mill has suggested for some time that the next version of Windows, codenamed Threshold, will contain many changes to the Windows UI to make it more desktop-friendly as it should be. The changes include bringing back the good old Start Menu, Boot to Desktop by default and the ability to run applications in a window.
As I just stated, we’ve acquired a Windows 9 build and we can confirm these changes and many, many more. In fact, Windows 9 is shaping up to be much more than a return to sanity – it’s a complete redesign of everything in Windows from the ground up; everything from Setup to day-to-day use has been changed. And yet it feels familiar and easy to use, something that Windows 8 certainly isn’t.
So if you’re ready to see what Microsoft has in store for Windows 9, check after the break.
Everything in Windows 9 has been changed, including the setup engine. Gone is the fake Aero from the Vista era and in is 3D-beveled buttons and a blue leopard. Also present is some advertising about Windows and an estimate on how long it’ll take to install Windows, a welcome addition that hasn’t been seen with Windows XP – although in my experience, the actual time spent installing was far greater than an hour.
Another welcome addition to the setup experience is this new Setup Options dialog. Previously, the only way to customize Windows like this was to install it, remove the fluff you didn’t want and add the useful things, prepare the machine and make a system image of it. With this new method, you get to customize what Windows installs before it installs anything which is a much simpler task and makes installing Windows for a certain kind of machine much easier. Even Microsoft knew that as they’ve helpfully provided three recommended options – one is for the average desktop PC, one is for your laptop and one installs just the base of Windows so you have the most free hard drive space; we’ll get to that in a moment.
Given that we’re slowly transforming our world into the Internet of things, it only makes sense to include an email client and access to MSN, Microsoft’s news service. There’s also an option to install Microsoft Fax which feels dated as only government entities use faxes nowadays, but maybe this option is to cater to them. I’d also like to point out just how tiny the email client is – 600 kilobytes! I challenge you to find another email client for any platform that’s smaller than that. I don’t care if it’s for Linux, Mac OS X, BeOS or whatever; if you know of an email client that’s smaller than 600KB, I want to hear from you.
Windows 9 is fast. I barely had enough time to take this screenshot before the file copy portion of setup was done and that’s usually what takes the longest. Advertising was also rumored to be making its way deeper into Windows but don’t fret. This is the only advertising you’ll ever see while using Windows 9 itself.
The bootscreen is an immediate indicator that something is different. The old perspective-based blue flag in Windows 8 is nowhere in sight and in its place is a new spin on the classic four-color Windows flag: instead of the individual sections floating freely, they’ve added a border and trail to the flag. It’s also being shown in the clouds, which is probably a reference to Windows Azure and Microsoft’s other cloud services.
And now, the Windows 9 desktop. As promised, Boot to Desktop is enabled by default and our beloved Start button is back. There’s also a “Welcome to Windows” pop-up that acts similarly to the pop-up notifications in Windows 8.1 that show you how to get around when you first install Windows. This version is far less annoying and more importantly, it actually works when you want it to and can easily be made to go away by clicking a checkbox.
The beloved Start Menu is back, albeit more simplified than what we had in Windows 7. Regardless, it still does the basic things you want to do: offer a central location for your programs, a quick way to access common settings, a place to find your last used documents, a help function, a search function and an easy way to shut down your computer. Even though it’s not as featured as what we’ve seen in previous versions of Windows, it’s still a vast improvement over the atrocity that was Metro. Speaking of Metro, you may be wondering why I haven’t shown off the Windows 9 incarnation of that environment, and there’s a very good reason why.
As of Windows 9, Metro has been completely done away with. You read that right, Metro is no more. No longer will we have that gaudy tablet UI forced on us, nor will we have to content ourselves on using baby apps in Windows. Metro is gone; the desktop and real Win32 apps are here to stay.
There’s so much to go over in Windows 9 that it would probably take an entire week of posts just to cover every last little thing. I’m genuinely surprised that Microsoft has changed so much this early on in the development cycle. But as you can plainly see, there’s a lot of great things happening with Windows.
Before we end this First Look, I want to touch on two other points. First, Windows 9 itself is very small. Even after copying the installation files to the hard drive, it only used about 150MB of space which is a huge improvement over the heavily bloated 35GB that previous versions of Windows would use on a fresh install. Second, Windows 9 is still going to push ahead with the Pro Plus pack but they’ve dropped the price to a more reasonable $50 and will add more features than just Windows Media Centre. The Windows 9 Pro Plus pack includes themes, new icon sets, sound schemes, screensavers, extra system utilities and much more.
All in all, Windows 9 is going to totally rock the Windows world.